Hand in Hand – designing for optimization

Working for a local search marketing company has had its benefits over the last year and a half. Not only have I had the opportunity to grow as a web designer, I’ve expanded my skill set to project management, user interface, and user experience design and control. I would have to say that the most valuable lesson that I have learned is the ability to combine Search Engine Optimization with design. <

p class="MsoNormal">Now we all know that we need to optimize our sites to get them better ranking both in the local and organic arenas. Most of the time we leave this to others, but as designers if we are conscious of some of the major components that make up a well optimized site we can remove most of the extra effort by designing for optimization.

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p class="MsoNormal">So what can we do as designers that will value / enhance optimization?

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p class="MsoNormal">1)     Design for content.

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p class="MsoNormal">One of the most important components of good optimization is valuable content. As we are designing it is important that we focus on content, knowing that content is king. So during the design process we should make sure to be informing our clients about the value of content, helping them understand its value to what we are designing as well as its importance to optimization.

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p class="MsoNormal">A website without a content strategy is like a speeding vehicle without a driver. Learn why content matters and how to do it right.” ~ A List Apart

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p class="MsoNormal">2)     Building Sound Architecture.

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p class="MsoNormal">When laying out a site keep in mind that the architecture needs to be sound. Once coded, does the layout lend to the search engine crawlers being able to crawl the site easily? Is there a solid internal link structure?  As designers, we need to keep architecture at the forefront of our designs; our content will not be used to its full potential if we are not building it around a solid foundation. Using internal links within our relevant content will help the crawlers to visit the pages within our site more frequently. Not all of us code the designs we create, and at times the site structure has been predetermined, but we have the ability to influence the architecture by our design concepts… We must strive for solid architecture whenever possible.

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p class="MsoNormal">3)     Don’t Put a Square Peg In a Round Hole.

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p class="MsoNormal">Know when and where to use your tags, especially <h> tags. Not every title on your page should be an <h1> tag; learn about how to use your tags to effectively guide the crawlers through your site. Find creative ways to display your headings, either by using negative margins, or clean styling. Avoid using images for your headings unless you are using an image replacement technique.

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p class="MsoNormal">Besides tags it is also important to know when to use graphics in our links. When creating buttons it is important to remember that anchored links are another important element to optimization, especially in the link building process. As designers it is our responsibility to use creative techniques via css or otherwise to add visual appeal to our buttons without sacrificing optimization.

Conclusion

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p class="MsoNormal">As designers/developers we may not fully understand SEO, that is ok, it is not for us to master optimization (though the more we know the better) but instead to obtain a nice firm grasp of the basics. By doing this we can better equip our clients to get the most out of the product we are delivering, whether we are helping with the optimization, or someone else is taking it on, the least we can do is design the site so it is optimization friendly.

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p class="MsoNormal">Granted I am no expert on SEO but just by increasing my knowledge base I have been able to improve the services that I offer my clients.

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p class="MsoNormal">Thanks to Andy for the opportunity to contribute,

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p class="MsoNormal">~ Aaron I

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p class="MsoNormal">This is a guest post written by Aaron Irizarry, of www.thisisaaronslife.com . Aaron is a creative geek, he is passionate not only about web design but also web development. I would like to thank Aaron for this article and hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.